A Beacon Elementary School teacher who will retire this year has been named Educator of the Year by the Hilliard Alumni Association.

Joe Salamony, 57, has taught fifth grade at Beacon the entirety of his 33-year carrier as an educator. He was named the top teacher at the annual Educators of Excellence ceremony April 25 at Hilliard Davidson High School.

"I thought it was the right time (to retire)," said Salamony, whose wife, Leslie, is a teacher at Hilliard Crossing Elementary School and has taught 29 years in the district.

They met while students at Ohio State University, but at that time, Salamony said, he was not sure that he would be a teacher.

"I was on a seven-year plan at OSU (and) undecided (on a major)," he said.

But another Hilliard educator, family friend Kay Bible, led Salamony to his career in education.

"She put me on path," Salamony said about Bible, who taught 35 years in Hilliard.

Bible invited Salamony to enroll in the Freshman Early Experience Program, known as FEEP, at Ohio State. His first classroom experience was in Bible's classroom at J.W. Reason Elementary School.

"A lot has changed," Salamony said, reflecting on the use of overhead projectors and 16mm film when he began teaching to the prevalence of YouTube videos and iPads today.

The goal and the reward of reaching each child always was the same, he said.

"(Salamony) is an amazing educator," said Matthew Sparks, Beacon Elementary School principal.

"Every student who enters his classroom feels important and he knows just what each one needs. I've never seen anything like it, he is truly a natural educator."

Phil Hawthorne, another fifth-grade teacher at Beacon, credited Salamony in a nomination letter for being "a driving force behind the success of many students who have come from challenging backgrounds."

Salamony and his wife have two daughters and one son; two are Davidson graduates and their youngest daughter is a sophomore at Davidson.

He was among 14 teachers recognized as Educators of Excellence by the alumni association.

This is the 15th year the association has solicited the nomination of one teacher from each building in the district; not every building submits a nominee each year. The Educator of the Year is chosen from among the nominees.

The other 13 Educators of Excellence were:

* Terri Root, music, Alton Darby Elementary School

* Melissa Hayes, second grade, Avery Elementary School

* Monica Manning, life skills, Britton Elementary School

* Rachel Murdock, art, Brown Elementary School

* Barry Weaver, first grade, Darby Creek Elementary School

* Christy Dameron, third grade, Hoffman Trails Elementary School

* Amy Wray, second grade, Horizon Elementary School

* Leslie McHenry, intervention specialist, Norwich Elementary School

* Brooke Finlay, life skills, Heritage Middle School

* Jim Hume, art, Memorial Middle School

* Angela Davoll, music, Weaver Middle School

* Meghan Lawrence, foreign language, Bradley High School

* Jeff Cadwallader, counselor, Davidson High School